SALISBURY – Wicomico County Public Schools (WCPS) will expand in-person instruction to four days a week in response to new federal guidance.
On Monday, Wicomico County Superintendent Dr. Donna Hanlin announced the school system’s return to four days of in-person instruction beginning no later than Monday, March 29. She noted new guidance on social distancing from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would allow school buildings to accommodate more students.
“As you may have heard, last Friday the CDC issued new guidance for schools that allows for physical distancing of three feet between students rather than the previous recommendation of six feet,” she said in a statement. “While there are still some details to be sorted out, we’re pleased that this new guidance gives our schools the flexibility to have more students in classrooms starting almost immediately. We believe we can now safely and consistently serve students in our schools with these CDC guidelines and with mask wearing, careful observance of physical distancing by students and staff, hand washing and sanitizing, ventilation, and regular cleaning and disinfecting in schools.”
In February, Wicomico County students transitioned back to hybrid in-person learning – with two days of in-person instruction and two days of virtual learning – as part of the school system’s Return to School Action Plan.
Hanlin said this week all current hybrid students, and any virtual students who were on a school’s waiting list for hybrid instruction as of last Friday will begin four days of in-person instruction by no later than next Monday.
Wednesdays will remain an asynchronous learning day for all students.
“Please be aware that having more students in school each day means we will need to increase the number of students on our school buses, and the level of physical distancing that we have enforced until now may no longer be possible,” she said. “We wanted parents and guardians to be aware of this as they decide whether their students will use school transportation or personal transportation.”
Hanlin noted virtual learning students seeking to transition to hybrid in-person instruction should contact the school principal to make a request. Students may also remain all virtual for the remainder of this school year.
“We will continue to evaluate the impact of this increase of students in our buildings, especially monitoring any increase of in-school coronavirus spread,” she said. “Our ultimate goal is to move to daily in-person instruction by mid-April for those who wish to have it.”
Hanlin said she plans to make her recommendation to expand in-person learning to five days a week at the next school board meeting on April 13.
“Wicomico County Public Schools looks forward to working with everyone in our schools and in our families to support students during this expansion of in-person instruction,” she said. “It’s a very positive step toward a more normal time that we are all eager to see.”
Earlier this month, several parents came before school board members asking them to return to traditional instruction. As school systems in surrounding counties returned to full-time, in-person learning, they urged WCPS officials to do the same.
“We are at a point right now, between CDC guidelines and our local health department, to open our schools full time, five days a week,” parent Darren Lombardo said.
At the time, Hanlin noted the challenges of returning to five days of instruction in Wicomico, which had a larger student population.
“We have 15,000 students in our system, and we have the responsibility to not only educate them but keep them safe,” she said. “We fully recognize face-to-face learning is the optimal way for students to learn, and we want that to happen, but we just have to make sure we do it safely.”